Water is an essential requirement for the body and is our most important nutrient. It makes up around two-thirds of our body. The body needs fluid for a wide range of functions, including metabolism, blood circulation, regulating body temperature and blood pressure, maintaining brain function, removing waste products and keeping the skin hydrated. This article aims to inform you more about the particular importance of ensuring you drink enough fluid while following a Slim & Save plan.
The term ‘fluid’ includes not only water from the tap or in a bottle but also other drinks that provide water such as tea, coffee, milk, fruit juices and soft drinks. However, for this article, we will be referring to the water that is recommended as part of the programme.
Why is water intake particularly crucial on our programmes?
When you consume a regular diet (without restricting carbohydrate intake to the point of inducing ketosis), your body stores glycogen in the liver and muscles as the body’s short-term energy storage system, each gram of glycogen is attached to approximately to 4 grams of water. When in ketosis (as with our programmes), you lose this glycogen storage and its associated water, making you more vulnerable to dehydration.
What role does water have in our body?
Removal of waste products – Drinking plenty of water enables you to maintain a healthy level of body water content to replace the natural water loss filtered by the kidneys, in the form healthy urine production to remove waste products. The liver and kidneys work together to remove waste products (or toxins) from the body. For example, the metabolism of protein (which happens in the liver) produces waste products (ammonia, uric acid, urea and creatinine) which are filtered out by the kidneys and removed through our urine. If you don’t drink enough water, your body’s reaction is to reduce urine output to try to conserve water. The role of the liver may also be affected by not drinking enough, and there may be a build up of waste products. As our programmes are high in protein, drinking plenty is especially important.
Blood circulation – Water is essential for proper circulation of blood around the body. Blood carries vital nutrients such as oxygen to the body’s cells. If you don’t drink enough, the amount of blood circulating through your body (blood volume) will reduce. This, in turn, can affect the levels of oxygen in the bloodstream and make you feel more tired. Getting enough oxygen to your cells is also important in helping your body to break down (metabolise) fats into energy efficiently.
Brain function – Being well hydrated can also affect our brain function. Research has found that even mild dehydration can cause a reduction in attention and can affect the mood. Drinking enough fluid can help keep headaches at bay.
Healthy digestion – Water is essential to maintaining healthy digestion of your food and also prevents constipation. Water encourages the passage of waste through your digestive system and helps soften your poo. The fibre in your diet (e.g. from vegetables) acts like a sponge, absorbing water. Without adequate fluid, the fibre you eat can’t do its job properly, and you’re more likely to suffer from constipation.
Skin and body tissue health – Water is essential for maintaining healthy skin. Water helps to moisturise your skin from the inside out. Good hydration helps to keep your skin fresh, soft and smooth and helps get rid of wrinkles by plumping up the skin. Although, due to the challenges of carrying out good quality research in this area, there is only limited evidence to back up the importance of water on the skin. However, some studies have also suggested that prolonged dehydration can also be linked to hair loss. The mechanism of this is unclear but may be related to insufficient fluids being available to carry proteins and other nutrients to the scalp.
How much water should I be drinking?
Although you’re likely to feel thirstier on our programmes, don’t just be guided by your thirst. Make sure you drink plenty. You will need to drink around 2-3 litres every day, but as your water requirement will be individual to you, we have produced a handy automated tool to help you to work out your individual water requirement which you can find here.
Drinking more water as part of the programme is also a great way to get your body used to drinking water as your main choice of fluid, and help you to establish healthier drinking habits for the long term. Water is free and delivers fluid without calories or the sugars that can potentially damage teeth.
Written by Annemarie Aburrow RD BSc (Hons) PGDip, Slim & Save Dietitian.
How much water do you drink each day? Do you feel you are hitting the recommended quota and will the reasons given above help make it easier to consume?